National Wetlands Indaba 2019 Keynote Address
Ladies and Gentleman, Researchers, Scientists, Engineers, Lecturers, Graduates, Specialist in respective fields, Eco Warriors a good morning to you all and all protocol observed.
It is a great honor for me to stand here today and address a room filled with such passionate, dedicated and my all-time favorite ECO WARRIORS of this generation, firstly allow me to thank the South African Wetlands Society and all partnering organizations for the humble invitation and for allowing me this opportunity.
For the past few years as a young professional I sat in a room such as this with so many familiar faces at different professional platforms and I would leave more motivated towards my career, in a sense of understanding the sector a bit more, gaining experience from the expertise delivered at such events, having the opportunity to network and meet other specialists and simply be inspired by how passionately they could explain something as the characteristics and functions of a wetland to you.
I have seen many live, breathe and speak Environment, stood in conversations where their passion ignites yours, sat in workshops and presentations where I left feeling intellectually fed. However, I’m obligated to ask the question “is your passion for the fight of environmental protection simply your 9 to 5 job or do you spend your 9 to 5 fighting for Environmental protection because of your passion”?
As humanity we have inherited so much history, the ancient times, the stories of world war, segregation and democracy but we continue to fight the battles of war, segregation, poverty, equality, unemployment, social development and political warfare which are all continuous and heartfelt battles which inspite the lives that were and continue to be lost, the sacrifices and the attempts of rectification are sadly some of the very things that just as passed on to us we will past down to the next generation.
And we have allowed that climate change be added onto the very long list of battles to be fought.
Natural resources and the Environment has become one of the most stressed resources over the past few years and we all can say it’s due to natural reasons, lack of rain, what’s the alternative, the demand is high, over population and the most recent I heard was” it was bound to happen, nature is unpredictable” but we should not shift the blame away from the reality of commercialization, ineffective polices, unprincipled decision-making, industrialization without the inclusion of environmental best practices and of cause humanities constant demand to take without replenishment.
We have inherited environmental disregard but as a generation we have made the choice to accept it and follow, we have over time just added onto the mess and used the excuse demand and supply and the sacrifices for commercialization as our benefit of the doubt.
We could never stop activities such as mining, industrial production, agricultural activities and developments but it is the impacts of these activities which need to be remediated.
Impacts such as water resource pollution, contamination, infilling of wetlands, altering rivers and watercourses, deforestation, poor waste management and the high demand of natural resources to produce services but ignore alternatives because its considered expensive is where we fail.
It is said that because of population growth, demand and supply and economic stability it is merely impossible to remediate such impacts because these activities supplies humanity with either financial stability, employment or basic human services.
There is no disregard for the importance of these activities but it’s the way in which these activities are taking place and the environmental cost at which it’s done where we need to make a change.
By definition sustainability is the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. Every activity needed to ensure the functioning of a Country and the survival of Humanity done so sustainably would not only rectify our wrongs of the past and today but would ensure that the future generation’s constitutional rights of the Environment are achieved.
We are currently in the fight of our lives for the purpose of this fight exceeds well beyond the people in this room and the future generation that we have already met, we are fighting for the idea of those still to come. This fight started a long time ago but many were ignorant and to the reality of it but very recently is when we got a wake-up call to the reality of extinction, the reality of a drought, the reality of warmer conditions, the reality of parts of the East Antarctic melting away rapidly, the reality of the amazon rain forest burning for an entire month and the reality when two teenage girls fought over water in Eastern Cape in 2017 and one girl lost her life to that fight.
But the present- young people all around the world has taken part in a climate strike, a 16 year old activist sailed across the Atlantic as a call for climate action, young people have joined Environmental movements to take a stand and say “stop robbing us from the Environment”, activist and advocates has started movements all around the World with the objective to defeat climate change.
Our environment is suffering daily at our very hands and we have become so demanding that words such as conservation and preservation is the last thought and sometimes no thought at all.
But amongst all the deterioration, destruction and disregard there are organizations, NGO’s and individuals that are actively in some way taking action with conservation at the core.
These acts may seem small to combat the horrific state at which we are losing our environment day by day but it is the very people here in this room, the many individuals marching the streets and demanding environmental change, it’s the young activist that sailed across the Atlantic sea in a zero-carbon boat to address the United Nations and take her stand against climate change, it’s the researchers, scientist and professionals, its young leaders campaigning for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals which makes up on of the greatest Environmental Armies to ever exist and it is in all of them and the very people in this room that our greatest strengths lies in this fight.
The change that we speak of and need cannot be boxed or isolated this change needs to happen in both our professional and personal capacity because as much as institutions needs to change we as humanity need to change too.
This change includes but is no limited to the re-write and review of policies, stricter enforcement of legislation, better practices and sustainable systems, more research, continuous monitoring and implementation of best practice guidelines, there is a portion of that change which speaks to the individual- the change of mind-sets and behaviour, lessening our individual carbon footprints, living an individual sustainable lifestyle and contributing to Environmental Management in our daily lives.
At the peak of climate and environmental destruction, we have failed the future generation but that does not mean we should not mitigate our wrongs.
We have to continue creating platforms for Environmental Awareness too an extent where environmental consciousness becomes our reality.
We have to promote and implement the Sustainable Development Goals through projects, programmes and campaign both institutionalized and community based.
We have to invest in Environmental Education through collaborative initiatives promoting intergovernmental platforms.
We have to continue promoting platforms such as this where members from all respective spheres within the Sector are brought together to share knowledge, lessons learnt and updated research that would ensure that many begin to develop not only the understanding but need for Environmental Best Practices to be adopted.
And lastly as humanity we have to be the change we want to see.
I joined the Water Sector as a Graduate back in 2013 where I dedicated my time, passion and commitment to educating myself, gaining the experience and equipping myself to becoming a young professional so that I could make a difference and contribute to the water sector in the most effective way possible, with a qualification in Environmental Science and gathered years of experience through completion of short courses and daily exposure to the Environmental sector in my professional capacity, I began to feel a sense of purpose and a constant drive to do more, do better and one day I asked myself “what legacy will you leave behind”. And it is then when my professional and individual contribution towards change was synchronized and I began to see my legacy through the eyes of my passion.
As a young leader and Activist I am actively advocating for environmental change, climate defense and consciousness of sustainability through education and awareness. I stand here today as a Global Leader representing South Africa, this has not been easy nor comfortable because over the past three years I have work endlessly towards a mission , a mission not many understood or understands, a mission that is not accepted by many and even ignored by some, a mission that requires me to find the strength and courage to not give up because of the greater good, a mission that I selflessly fight not for myself but for those that will follow.
Over the past three years I have dedicated my time towards Environmental Education and I have had the privilege to collaborate and partner with some of the very Organizations represented here today and have engaged with our Schools and Communities throughout the Western Cape and inspite minimal resources, limited time and constant challenges I was able to achieve the following:
1. Commemorate Environmental Days of Importance educating learners about these days and why they are celebrated such as World Wetlands Days, World water Week, World Environment Day just to mention a few.
2. Conducted 86 Community cleanup’s aiming to educate our communities about waste management, recycling and food gardens.
3. Visited more than 250 Schools throughout the Western Cape Conducting Environmental Education sessions from Water Conservation Campaigns, river clean-ups, on site wetland rehabilitation workshops and climate change actions.
4. Planted to date 400 indigenous trees at schools and community spaces throughout the Western Cape during September each year commemorating Arbor Month under the promotion of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): 11.
5. I have established and founded a Non-Profit, Visions of Change a movement that will continue the fight for peace, justice, environmental protection, radical inclusion and liberation to build a better tomorrow.
As an activist I am a strong believer in the wise words of
the late tata Madiba “Education is the most power weapon we can use to change the world”
And as I continue my commitment to science and fulfilling my professional duties each day at the same time I will continue my commitment to equipping our youth and communities through environmental education and awareness, including projects, campaigns, initiatives and efforts to ensure that I do all that I can in providing this Nation’s present and future generations with the greatest weapon they need to change the world.
The time is now for this generation to stop the excuses and start rectifying our actions, we need to realize that the time is now for us to admit that the future generations deserve better from today’s generation: how can we live in the world and destroy its beauty and expect the future generation only to ever see a glimpse of its beauty on photographs or old copies of National Geographic?
We need to – we must - do better so that they will be able to see, feel and experience all of Earth’s wonders without having to cleaning up our mess; continuing a legacy of preservation and conservation that we have passed on to them.
I have started my environmental legacy that I have placed at the fore front of my being; it is in fact my greatest honor to live each day as an environmental activist actively on the ground empowering our youth and communities through environmental education and awareness.
I have found my mission and in my lifetime I will continue fight for every South African child to have access to clean water, decent sanitation, a clean and safe environment not harmful to their well-being and their inheritance of a conserved and protected environment.
A wise prophet once said “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors but borrow it from our children”.
Margo Tamzone Adonis